James Cridland’s Weekly Links: Global reaction to Beats 1 radio

James Cridland is Managing Director of media.info, and a U.K.-based radio futurologist. He is a consultant, writer and public speaker who concentrates on the effect that new platforms and technology are having on the radio business. Find out more or subscribe at http://james.cridland.nets

This week, James Cridland puts his link-curation focus on Beats 1, the global Internet radio venture from Apple, part of the recently launched Apple Music.

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Beats 1

So, it’s Beats 1 launch week. Many of us listened in – or tried to. If you worked outside of radio, you were thrilled and amazed at this new thing that Apple had launched, it seems, whereas for those of us within radio, most of us found it all a but ‘meh’.

  • Botched, lazy, uninspiring and ignorant – my review of Beats 1 probably didn’t pull any punches, though at least one of those in the comments probably wanted to. I think I was disappointed that Apple had launched something that was very ‘me-too’. I’d been privately hoping for something that would buck up radio broadcasters’ ideas of how to properly innovate in this space. I haven’t got it.
  • David Hepworth, a UK-based music journalist (and now radio reviewer for The Guardian) described Beats 1 as unlikely to trouble mainstream radio. Peter Saxon, chief of Australian radio industry website radioinfo.com.au, calls Beats 1 “niche at best” and highlights equivalent formats that have been tried and failed.
  • Larry Gifford, a US radio consultant and talent coach, suffered from the same thing I did. “I counted on Apple to create the fully integrated, connected, social savvy, second screen radio has been struggling to create. My expectations were too high.“. US music analyst Bob Lefsetz blames the old folk. “As for Trent Reznor dreaming up the idea of an international radio station… That’s what’s wrong with the music business, aged people who remember how it once was. Sure, I was addicted to the radio back in the last century, but that was before I had options.” Ouch.
  • I criticised the user experience as unimaginative. Writing in RAIN, Editor Brad Hill highlights a six-step process to listen, says how hard it is to find the station in the first place, and adds: “Being so cool that you bury a leading product isn’t cool. It just torments users and limits audience. And by the way, Apple: You are way, way behind in this industry. You don’t have cool mojo to spend.“. It’s not just Beats 1 either: bugs and frustrations in the larger Apple product made PA journalist Darren Waters (writing personally) exclaim “What the actual?” and pointed out that since Apple Music is part of the OS, he adds “Apple tends not to fix issues in their own apps for months and months, and often not until there’s an update to the entire iOS. So if these problems annoy you too, they are going to be annoying for some time to come.”
  • Meanwhile mischievously, Business Insider says they spoke to an Apple employee, who “tells us they switched off the new Beats 1 radio station after hearing just 2 tracks”. Here a link to that article that doesn’t work, and one thatmight work if you have an Android phone, proving that those who throw stones should occasionally check their own houses for breakable glazing. Billboard, too, points out that most expert opinion has been “it’ll get better in the next version”, quoting a bunch of great journalists and, um, me.
  • If, however, you don’t work in radio (either now or in the past), you like it. Journalist Dave Pell says “this day will be remembered as the moment Apple reminded people that they like radio“. Music website Grantland enthuses that you have to listen or you’ll feel you’ll be missing out: “If you’re not listening, you could be missing Zane Lowe shouting “ECUADOR”” (I’m not listening, and that feels good).
  • The New York Times writes a long piece calling Beats 1’s launch DJ “Mr Lowe” in the curious way that it extracts all human life out of any story it covers, and notes that “Beats 1 is in some ways an old-fashioned radio station, with D.J.s, promotional recordings — “carts,” as they are in industry parlance, after the tape cartridges they used to fit on — and teases about new songs.” Wow. How’s 1930 going? Man, you’ve a surprise to come.
  • Michael Robertson amusingly launched an app with a station in it called FreeBeats1. “FreeBeats1 monitors Apple’s Beats1 station and plays the same tunes but without the disruptive DJ banter.”, adds the press release.
  • But the last word probably goes to tech news website Re/code. The title? “Apple Music’s Beats 1 Is Like Radio Before It Sucked“. And maybe that’s what we should take heart in knowing. Because, perhaps there’s a little truth in that.United States

    United Kingdom

    The rest

    • Broadcasting critical info hours after disaster strikes – a nifty radio station in a suitcase. A nice idea, though no idea where these folks are based.
    • Netherlands radio platforms: DAB+ has 3% of listening; FM only 47%. Much of the rest? Digital cable. Internet’s about 12% I guess?
    • India: He’s the Garrison Keillor of India, and he’s reviving the art of storytelling, says the WashPo.


Brad Hill